Teachers feel pressure

2014-03-12 00:00

THE government needs to invest in the emotional wellbeing of teachers because their mental and emotional state directly impacts their work.

These were the sentiments of Brenda Jordan, an English teacher at Pietermaritzburg’s Eastwood High School. She said many teachers were at a breaking point because of all the challenges outside their curriculum that they have to deal with without any emotional support.

“Teaching is not just about the teaching, it is also about providing the support for the children … many with different psychological challenges.

“There needs to be an outlet for teachers,”said Jordan, who has been teaching for 20 years at the school.

“We deal with many different challenges. When pupils arrive in the morning you wonder whether they have eaten and when they leave, you wonder whether they will arrive safely at home. These are all the psychological problems that we have to carry when we go back to our families.”

She said in many instances, teachers struggle with all the issues they have to deal with at school and turn to other teachers for support.

She said she had found many teachers going to colleagues, saying, “I cannot take this anymore”. They were pacified and told all would be okay, she said.

“Some have gone on stress leave while others are sick and when [people] here stress they think, ‘Oh, you are breaking down’,” she said.

In 2000, she said, she was struggling so much with the challenges outside teaching that she took stress leave and contemplated leaving the profession.

“I was able to find help that I needed because I could afford it, but many teachers are struggling,” she said.

“Even last year, I was struggling with a pupil in my class who was dealing with psychological problems that we tried to help with … we put him in touch with the counsellor to help and this proved to be successful.”

Jordan said the Department of Education needed to put measures and structures in place to invest in the emotional well-being of teachers to help them cope.

She believed this would ease the burden on teachers and would be an emotional outlet for them.

• The ANC and the NFP did not respond in time for our deadline.

This is how the province’s political parties responded


“The IFP was moved by the plight articulated by teacher Brenda Jordan, underlying the emotional pressure and stress the teaching profession has exposed her and many of her colleagues to.

“The fact is that South Africa’s education system is failing our children, not empowering them for the future. Likewise, it is also failing our teachers.

“Yet, despite this, many heroes and heroines go to teach under these difficult circumstances.

“The IFP is of the view that stress levels among educators have reached crisis proportions.

“Educators feel let down by the system since people appointed in the posts of subject advisers and education circuit managers are either not qualified enough or do not have the necessary experience, or both …

“An IFP government will ensure that we look into investing into the emotional well-being of the teachers because, like Brenda rightly states, their mental and emotional state directly impacts on their jobs.

“It is also important that education officials visit schools regularly, offering support and assistance. Social workers and guidance councillors must be appointed at schools to assist teachers. The department must also reduce the amount of administrative work that educators are faced with or provide additional clerical assistance at all schools.”


“The MF acknowledges and appreciates the strenuous work programme of the Education Department. The Education Department has the EAP (employees assistance programme) to help educators who are emotionally distressed to overcome their personal and professional problems.

“The superintendent of educational management receives confidential information from school principals regarding educators in need of counselling and if this was a major issue a policy would have been brought to Parliament. Teachers can petition Parliament, through the speaker and petitions committee, to the education portfolio committee if the situation reaches a crisis point.

“The MF supports the idea of counselling staff assisting teachers in need of emotional help and has debated this in the portfolio committee and the MF does raise complaints arising from school visits.

“The MF agrees that professional structures need to be established to address emotional issues. The department was offering yoga classes but this is symptomatic treatment. A lot more has to be done in terms of qualified guidance counsellors who help both pupils and teachers.

“Also, religious chaplains should be appointed to motivate and counsel teachers.

“Problems just do not go away in any career, but must be addressed. Principals manage schools and the emotional well-being of teachers is paramount, hence a principal has to motivate for teacher counselling and for medical schemes to pay for such conditions apart from the religious sector intervening to motivate.”


“Ms Jordan raises a critical issue. We need to fix our education system to make things better for both teachers and pupils. The DA’s education policy is very clear. We need more teachers, better training for teachers, better school infrastructure and more technological classroom aides to ensure quality education and high levels of teacher morale. Teachers that perform well must be rewarded to create incentives for excellence.

“Cutting corruption, creating more jobs and improving education are the DA’s top priorities. We have delivered in the places where we govern. In the Western Cape, where we govern, we have reduced the number of underperforming schools by 75%. Maths and science passes are best in the Western Cape.”

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